Georgia Bars May Be Liable for Passengers Injured in Drunk Driving Accidents

Recently, a group of friends' night out at a bar in southwest Atlanta ended in a deadly crash. After allegedly becoming intoxicated, one individual wanted to drive her friend home. The security guard at the bar noticed she was under the influence of alcohol, however, and took away her car keys. Shortly thereafter, the guard gave the keys to another individual in the group of friends, allowing them to leave the bar.

According to a passenger in the car, the woman who was given the keys by the security guard drove them a short distance away, before getting out of the vehicle and turning the keys over to the car owner. The owner, who the security guard had refused to let drive, got behind the wheel of her car. She proceeded to drive with one other passenger in the car. Tragically, she entered Ga. 400, driving south in the lanes headed north.

At 4:15 a.m., the wrong-way driver crashed into another vehicle traveling in the appropriate direction on the highway. The head-on drunk driving accident near the Lenox Road exit resulted in two fatalities, the drivers of both vehicles. The passenger in the wrong-way vehicle survived.

The surviving passenger has since contended that the bar where the friends were drinking that evening is partially responsible for the accident. She claimed the security guard could have taken further action to ensure her friend was not allowed to drive. While the facts in this particular case may make it difficult for the passenger to recover damages from the bar, such facilities can be held liable for injuries or fatalities resulting from Georgia motor vehicle accidents caused by drunk drivers.

Liability Under Georgia's Dram Shop Act

Under Georgia law, both establishments that serve alcohol and social hosts may be held liable for injuries caused by drunk drivers under certain circumstances. The law is called the Dram Shop Act, in reference to stores that used to sell liquor by the dram, a unit of measurement. These days, dram shop liability laws can cover many different types of establishments that provide alcohol, including bars and liquor stores.

In Georgia, liability may be imposed upon an establishment or social host if alcohol is sold or served to an individual less than 21 years of age. In addition to this somewhat expected penalty, liability may also be imposed when alcohol is served or sold to those over 21 years of age, in some cases. According to the law, a person may be liable if he or she sells or serves alcohol to someone "who is in a state of noticeable intoxication," so long as the alcohol provider is aware that the consumer "will soon be driving a motor vehicle."

As a result of Georgia's Dram Shop Act, many Atlanta bars and restaurants have purchased insurance to cover potential liability issues arising from intoxicated patrons causing damage in motor vehicle crashes.

As for the bar in southwest Atlanta, liability issues have yet to be determined. The bar may be able to claim that it made efforts to prevent the intoxicated woman from operating her vehicle. The injured passenger could claim, however, that the bartender continued to serve alcohol to the driver, with the knowledge that she was intending to drive thereafter.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a drunk driving accident, it is best to explore all possible avenues of recovery. An experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney will ensure that all responsible parties are held liable for damages caused to you and your family.